An important part of the Ribchester Revisited project is student training. During the dig more experienced masters students run small teams, giving them experience in leadership and team management. As part of their work the masters students then complete reports on their section of the trench. This blog post discussing the guardhouse is by Louise Clempson, the masters student tasked with the guardhouse excavation.
Ribchester Revisited 2017 saw the excavation of the guard house floor located in the northern section of the trench: as shown by figure 1 above. As a Masters student, I supervised the team excavating the guardhouse. The perimeter of the clay surface was recorded using specialised equipment (total station) in order to construct an image of the guardhouse in the lab. Furthermore every object found was 3D recorded using this equipment and given its own unique identification number. This allows us to understand exactly where in the guardhouse each type of object was found. From this, connections could be made regarding specific patterns that cannot be detected in the field. All the finds within the guardhouse were mapped using a GIS computer program (QGIS). As you can see there is an obvious pattern emerging from the finds of these first few layers of the guardhouse floor.
The finds seem to be concentrated in certain areas: these being the southern and western edges with a clear lack in finds from the centre and northern edge. This can be explained by looking at the guardhouse more closely. The entrance will have been by the threshold stone as shown and unfortunately the edges of the floor have been truncated by Thomas Mays Trenches which he dug in his 1907 excavation (Buxton and Howard- Davis 2000). Therefore we can assume the guardhouse floor was larger than we discovered. Therefore the current edges of the floor are several centimetres away from the actual edge, whereas some edges may well have been close to their original position. This would explain the pattern showing as normally in a room waste gets confined to the corners, with the centre being reasonably clean as this will be where the main activity takes place. Placement of furniture could also impact the loss and placement of objects. The finds themselves are extremely interesting as one of the main type recovered was animal bone. There was a heavy concentration of animal bone found in the southern side of the guardhouse. We are still awaiting zooarchaeological analysis; however, on first look most seem to be cow or pig. Moreover, two sizeable bones were found in situ; a pelvis and a scapula (shown in figure 2).
The reason for the high concentration of bones in the southern section of this space could be due to how the space was used. For example, the southern area could be where food was consumed therefore small pieces of bone lying around would be normal. The longer bones are more difficult to explain our working theory is that long bones were placed to even out the floor surface and make it more substantial before another layer of clay was added, this has been seen before however needs investigating next year.
Shown above are the pottery finds from the excavation (Figure 3). Again, a similar pattern is emerging with a concentration again in the southern section of the guardhouse. But also some scattered along the eastern edge. Most of these were small fragments with the exception being a base of a pot found with a maker’s mark, discovered in last year’s excavations in the eastern section of the guardhouse and excavated this year much to the delight of the students. The fact that small fragments were found lead us to the conclusion that these were deposited randomly from perhaps several smashed or chipped vessels.
Figure 4 demonstrates all of the material associated with metal working. The dark purple spots representing metal slag which is a bi product of metal working and the light purple represents nails which are associated with building. There is a cluster of slag towards the eastern section which could lead us to believe that metalworking was taking place in this area at one time or another. Perhaps once this space wasn’t being used as a guard house it was repurposed for metal working which isn’t unheard, similar evidence was found for a guardhouse at Birdoswald (Biggins et al 1999).
It will be interesting to see if these same patterns continue to show in the 2018 excavations as the guardhouse when the final floor layers are removed. The finds will continued to be plotted so it will be possible to analyse the patterns in the lab once the excavations have been completed.
Biggins, J. A., Taylor, D. J. A., Coxon, B., Esselmont, B., Frank, A., Hudson, C., McCloy, P., Montgomery, E., and Robinson, J. 1999. A Survey of the Roman Fort and Settlement at Birdoswald, Cumbria. Britannia 30. 91-110.
Buxton, K. and Howard-Davis, C. 2000. Bremetenacum. Lancaster: Lancaster Imprints.